Monday, August 31, 2009

Accounts are cleared

There were 90 odd Euros left in the now defunct Villas Andrea Residents’ accounts. At a recent meeting, we all agreed to donate this money to the Pensioners' Club in Bigastro.

Gordon and Ann, the reigning Third Age King and Queen, presented a cheque for 100€ on behalf of all the residents to the president of the club last night. In accepting the donation, D. Antonio Rodriguez Guillén thanked all the residents of Villas Andrea for their generosity.

For those who don’t know about the club:-

The Club de la Tercera Edad was founded in 1985 by D. Manuel Granero Saez, the old policeman of the town.

In 1987 Manuel Juan Villanueva took over as president. It was he who inaugurated the Centro Social Integrado as the new premises for the club to meet in.

From 1990 until 1994, D. Joaquín Costa Personal was president. D. Antonio Rodriguez Guillén succeeded him and is the current president.

The Centro de la Tercera Edad is open every day including Sunday evenings when they organise a dance for members.

Their club organises a variety of activities including; trips to commercial premises (factory trips), week end trips and a special trip following the August Fiesta. They also organise a special Christmas dinner which happens to be in May.

During the Fiesta, the club holds a party of its own out in the street. Members also take part in the parade of comparsas in fancy dress.

To join the Pensionistas' you need to visit the Centro Social Integrado and find the President’s office. To qualify for membership you must be either 60 years old or have retired early.

You need to take with you:

* a photocopy of your national identity document (NIE for we ex-pats)
* 2 passport sized photographs for your membership card.

The cost of membership according to the Bigastro web site is 1 Euro per month. I think it may be more than that now.

We’ll meet again

Dame Vera Lynn is back in the pop charts. Her album, “We’ll Meet Again – The Very Best of Vera Lynn” sits at no 20 in the album charts in the UK.

Dame Vera was last in the charts during the 50s. Nearly six decades later, at the age of 92, she is back again. The album was released to coincide with this Thursday’s 70th anniversary of the outbreak of war.

I don’t suppose she will go on tour though; nor will she be topping Glastonbury. Dame Vera might have to make an appearance on “Top of the Pops” (if that programme is still running).

Good on her.

Back in business

Do you remember when Frank Evans, the only British matador to enter the ring, retired from bullfighting in 2005? They cut off his ponytail after his last bull in the ring at Benalmadena. Everyone thought that that was it; “El Ingles” had exchanged his traje de luz for something more comfortable.

image Mr Evans, who used to practise his sword thrusts in the park on a supermarket trolley full of hay, was forced to retire on doctor’s orders in 2005 after having a knee operation for an old rugby injury. But his passion for the bullring never died.

Last night Frank pulled off a remarkable sporting comeback when he returned to the ring as a professional four years after supposedly hanging up his cape for good.

At 67, Frank, who is possibly the oldest matador alive, killed two 500lb (227kg) bulls with ease, despite his prosthetic knee and quadruple heart bypass. When he plunged the espada, into the bulls’ backs there was rapturous applause from the crowd of several hundred Spanish aficionados and curious tourists. To their cries of “olé!” he proved that he was better suited to battling the bulls than picking up his bus pass.

Apart from the fact that I would never fit into one of those suits, there is no way I would ever set foot into a ring with a live bull. I admire toreros a lot but I do think they are mad for risking their lives in the way they do.

Holidays are over


People were making the most of it yesterday on the beaches of the province.

This photo from Laverdad shows La Playa de San Juan in Alicante.

August ends today and along with it the traditional holiday period. All the visitors, who have crowded the roads and filled the beaches have gone home leaving the towns quiet again for those who live here.

Children, at least in the UK, will be preparing to go back to school which will bring a sigh of relief to many mums.

All in all, I don’t think the tourist season this year has been as disastrous as many feared it might be. Of course, we all hope for some signs of economic recovery soon. I doubt that we will see the boom years back though.

The all important weather


Looks like another dry and warm week ahead. The little bit of cloud won’t trouble us, just stop the sun from burning too much.

It is also noticeably cooler at night.

It is just a pity that AEMET don’t show us the all important humidity. Being overweight, I do sweat a lot when the humidity is high.

I know, I know - that is too much information for a Monday morning.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Useless booty

The story about the computers being stolen from Medical Centres made me think about what the thieves hoped to achieve. Certainly there would have been disruption to the service as new computers were acquired and commissioned.

What use would the computers be to the thieves?

It is hard to imagine that medical centres use high end specification machines. For sure they would be useless to anyone hoping to play the latest games on them. They were probably configured to work on a network and so would require some skilful work to make them operate as standalone machines. It is possible that the thieves have got fed up trying to make sense out of the computers and have now dumped them.

The story reminded me of an incident at the old Anfield school where I used to teach many years ago. The Head of Maths had a RM Nimbus computer in his stockroom. He was ahead of his time since computers were largely unheard of in schools then. The actual computer was a huge box which sat on the floor. On the desktop was the monitor which was in fact colour and the keyboard (NB no mouse: this was well before mice were invented).

One evening, his stockroom was broken into and thieves (presumably pupils from the school) stole the monitor and keyboard. They obviously thought the monitor was the computer itself. However, it didn’t take them long to realise their mistake because the monitor was found dumped in the local park sadly in an unusable state.

There was also a Commodore computer in the Maths stockroom. The Head of Maths managed to program the Commodore using BASIC to sort out the examination entries; previously that was a time consuming task that had to be done on paper.

The computer wizard would work on his program after school finished at 4pm but then found that the change in voltage caused by classroom lights being switched off at the end of lessons caused the machine to crash. Fearful of loosing all his work, he kept five backup copies of the program and the data on five five and a quarter inch floppy discs; each located in a different place. Bear in mind that writing data to a floppy disc  was painfully slow: it would  take until 6pm each night to complete the task.

And we complain today if our machines take more than thirty seconds to boot up. You have to be a certain age to remember the rotating hourglass!

Take it out on the receptionist

Several health centres in the Vega Baja have suffered from acts of vandalism in the last few days.

On Monday, at the health centre in Callosa del Segura, people threw water over the computers in the admission area rendering them useless.

On Tuesday someone had sprinkled bleach on the keyboards at the same health centre.

In our experience, receptionists in medical centres can be brusque. I remember one particular lady at the centre in Moreton that we used to visit in England; she was most unhelpful. The excuse was that it was her job to protect the doctors from being bombarded by time wasters. On occasions though, you had to be rude in return to secure an appointment without a lengthy explanation of your symptoms.

Following many complaints from patients, the lady eventually left to be replaced by someone more sympathetic. You still struggled to get an early appointment but at least the new person was polite and smiled at you.

I can only presume that the person or persons responsible for the damage at Callosa were similarly unhappy with the service they received at reception there. Destroying the computers was a drastic way of seeking out revenge though.

In addition to the problems at Callosa, computers and monitors have been stolen from the ambulatorios in Almoradí, Catral and Cox.

The union, (CSIF) are asking for for more security cameras and personnel to protect their members.


The cost of removing graffiti in Torrevieja is enormous. The council spend over 300,000€ per year cleaning it off and then repairing the damage caused.

Although this is an ongoing battle, with the help of a graphologist, the police in Torrevieja have managed to catch one of the individuals responsible. The man described as S.T.A. used various pseudonyms; "Sadow", "Bruto" and "XPLTS". His work can be seen on the paseo Vista Alegre, paseo de la Libertad, Los Marineros and the paseo marítimo Juan Aparicio. In fact his graffiti can be seen all over the town on both public and private buildings and on walls. The estimated damage he has caused amounts to over 12,000€.

The twenty year old, who comes from Madrid, has lived in Torrevieja for four years. When the police stopped and detained him, they found 20 cans of spray paint of various colours in his car. Spray paint is not cheap so he must have spent several hundred Euros at least on the stuff over the four years.

The police have a mammoth task on to try and catch the people responsible for graffiti in Torrevieja because almost every street seems to have been targeted. Whilst Bigastro is no where near as bad, the areas of wasteland by the service road are particularly affected.

Like the damage to the service boxes, graffiti is mindless vandalism that costs the local tax payers a lot of money. Let's face it, there are more creative ways to get yourself noticed than spraying your name on a wall - take up blogging for example - it has certainly worked for me!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Please, please, please no more!

Do you remember at the end of last year when the Euro was on par with the Pound? That was not good. Then the exchange rate slowly started to creep back up and people started to predict that it would be 1.30€ by April or May.

Well now it is August, almost September and the best we have seen was 1.18ish – not good but a darned sight better than parity.

My pension is transferred in Euros early each month. So, at this time of the month, I keep a watchful eye on the rate hoping that it might just inch up to 1.20 or more just in time to give me a few more Euros to spend.

It looks as though, for this next month, I am gong to be disappointed. The current rate is just less that 1.14 which means I will have less to spend. As my first Headteacher used to say, “does anybody want to buy a watch?”

Should I try the kokotxas al ajillo?

Yesterday, we called in at El Restaurante La Herradura just outside Los Montesinos. We’d been there for the ‘This is Spain’ exhibition and sampled their excellent paella, so we thought we would give it a try. The manager kindly gave us a tour of the place and took our reservation for next week.

People who have eaten at La Herradura, say it can be expensive but our philosophy is to go out for a meal now and then and eat well. We would rather have one good meal out every few months than indifferent ones every week.

In any case the restaurant in Los Montesinos now offers two menus de la noche which represent excellent value of money. The cheaper menu is very limited but the more expensive one has a good range of dishes from the a la carte menu. At nineteen Euros a head, it won’t break the bank.

It is true to say that Spain does not have the same reputation for haute cuisine that France enjoys but if you are discerning enough and willing to pay a bit more, there is a lot of good eating to be had. It just isn’t realistic to expect to find the best dishes the country has to offer on a 7-10€ menu del dia.

imageI have to be honest and say that eating in British, German or Indian restaurants is not really what we came to Spain for. It’s a cop out that is  OK now and again but to go native is much more interesting. We may not understand all the Spanish dishes we eat but if they look and taste good that is what counts.  Those kokotxas al ajillo (fish jaws in garlic – a Basque country delicacy) do sound tempting!

Anyway, once we have been to El Restaurante La Herradura, we will give you our opinion for what it is worth.

PS Speaking of restaurants, we have heard good reports of the new one on Calle Purisima in Bigastro. We’ve tried to work out what it is called but that script lettering outside is undecipherable. If anyone has further information, please let me know.

An update on the dongle

Wills, who reads my blog says:-

I have a Vodafone Internet modem. It cost me about 50 Euros from the Vodafone shop in Guardamar and has been very useful. No problems using it bit you have to watch the volume when you on that particular tariff. As we only spend 10-12 weeks a year in Spain it is not economic to get a broadband connection in the apartment. We are very pleased with this compromise and, if it gets too expensive, we nip down to the library where it is free to use the internet!

That should please my neighbour who was struggling to register for top ups on her USB modem. Last night the lady told me that she has now been able to contact the shop in Quesada and they have agreed to help her out.

It seems that, because she didn’t have her email address to hand when they configured the modem, the shop left that part out. Now, of course, my neighbour can’t put that information in. The shop also told my neighbour that she could avoid using the Internet to top up her account by buying a top up card from the local garage. So she now has two options.  

Actually, thinking about it, this type of connection might be useful for someone like me who already has an ADSL connection via Telefónica because It would allow me to connect to the Internet away from home. The only drawback is that credit on the prepaid tariff only last 90 days.

Our youngest daughter has a router and ADSL so I don’t have a problem there but our oldest daughter has a USB cable modem from VIrgin which is a lot trickier to connect to with my Linux netbook. Last time we were at her house, I found one of her neighbours had an open wireless access point which I managed to connect to  – very naughty I know!

A better understanding

You would have to be oblivious to everything going on in Orihuela not to know that next year marks the centenary of the birth of  the poet Miguel Hernandez. The difficult thing is to find information about the poet and his works in English.

That is about to change because a German student, Beate Buczkowski from the University of Münster will spend the next two months translating the web pages of the Cultural Foundation Miguel Hernandez into both English and German.

The student of Spanish Studies and Cultural and Social Anthropology has been granted a scholarship to work with the cultural organisation in Orihuela to complete this work.

Although I am not a lover of poetry, I would like to know a lot  more about one of Orihuela’s most famous sons. 

Friday, August 28, 2009

Please don’t mention dongles

I was stopped in the street yesterday by one of our neighbours who said, “I hear you have a dongle”. Although it sounds vaguely rude, she was referring to the USB Bluetooth dongle that connects my mobile phone to my computer which took a lot of hair pulling and fancy footwork to get the thing communicating with my Nokia phone. It works now!

This lady also has a USB dongle but hers is used to connect her computer to the Internet via a 3G mobile phone network. She bought it in the UK along with a netbook computer and brought it back to Spain. Since my neighbour is a causal user of the Internet, this should work out a lot cheaper than tying herself into a contract for an ADSL, WIMAX or other form of connection.

My neighbour had been to the computer shop in Quesada where they had configured the connection to work here in Spain. What she now needed to do was to register the service so that she could top up the account and this is where it all went pear shaped.

My neighbour has a good command of Spanish and was able to work her way through the required information. Frustratingly though it didn’t work. The system refused to recognise the email address that she entered whichever way she typed it in.

Every mobile phone provider offers a similar package to the one my neighbour subscribed to. For example, these are the details of the prepaid package from Vodafone:-


There are similar packages from Orange, Telefónica etc.

Vodafone offer two methods to pay: per volume or by the period of usage (within the limit of 1Gb at 128Kbs).


It all sounds very simple but I bet there are just as many pitfalls using Vodafone’s system as there are with the one my neighbour is using. I hope she gets it sorted out pretty soon, I don’t think being hairless would suit her.

A small percentage

Drink and drugs contributed to the problems of over 5,000 Brits who needed consular help in the country during the last year.

Figures for the 12 months to March 2009, released by the British Government on Tuesday, show that Spain continued to be the most popular destination for UK travellers with around 17 million visitors during the year. As a consequence, the country also recorded the highest number of problems in several categories.

According to the report there were 2,290 Britons arrested in Spain for various offences including 180 involving drugs. Thirty-five people reported a sexual assault and 22 claimed they had been raped; 741 were hospitalised; and 7,548 managed to lose their passports.

The report expresses concern about the number of cases which were involved drink or drugs, noting that the problems peaked in the summer months, at the time their consumption increased.

Putting that into perspective, the number of problems represents 0.03% of the total number of visits.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

She knows how to party


This is our eldest daughter Jemma at the V Festival.

After two failed attempts to buy tickets, she and her friend Sommer finally triumphed by getting tickets at a lower price.

The highlights that Jemma has mentioned were Dizee Rascal and the Killers. She also got to see Lady GaGa, The Specials, Razorlight and a whole lot more.

Plenty of beer was consumed which apparently made up for the lack of sleep.

Pam and I once went to a three day pop festival in Germany where we saw TIna Turner, Rod Stewart, Prince and Chris de Burgh along with numerous other like Foreigner and Joe Cocker.

However we stayed in a hotel. We still had very little sleep but at least our breakfasts were prepared for us and we didn't need wellies.


I always use Photoshop to edit my photographs. Sometimes I apply minor tweeks like removing noise, cropping, increasing contrast or brightness. Other time I might attempt to remove something from a photo like a misplaced person or a lamp post.. Generally, the final image is reasonably faithful to the original.

Many photographers though go to more extensive lengths to alter their images. I must confess that I have replaced people's eyes when the subject had them closed and I have taken a little weight of people but nothing more drastic than that.

Microsoft produced this image for their website to advertise their business productivity software.

Mk 1

When the same picture appeared on their Polish site it looked like this.

Mk 2

They had used Photoshop to replace the head of the black man with a with another; attempting to make him look white. Unfortunately they forgot to change his hand which was still black. Microsoft apologised for the mistake and have since reverted to the original picture for their Polish site.

If a company like Microsoft can get it so wrong, what hope is there for an amateur like me. I’ll just stick to just simple alterations that you can’t spot in future.

Be careful what you write

Those who read my blog regularly will know how careful I am not to write anything defamatory on these pages.

More often than not I refer to people as “my neighbours” rather than mention names. I don’t accuse anyone of wrong doing unless I have first hand experience. in other words, I try to avoid hearsay. Where I express my own viewpoint, I try to make it clear because my opinions are just that – they are not facts. The last thing I would want is for anyone to take offence from “Esta es jauja”.

It seems that not everyone who blogs takes the same stance. Police in Orihuela have tracked a blogger who has been making serious accusations about fellow members of the police there. It would not have been hard to find his blog because it was entitled "Ser policía en Orihuela". Nor was it hard to trace the person responsible. Once the police had permission from the court, the telephone company were able to provide details of the author from the IP address*.

The site has been closed down and the man’s computer and hard drive have been confiscated however the damage has already been done. The reputation of the officers concerned has been scarred by the man’s accusations.

Cases like this should be a warning to all. The Internet is not a platform where you can vent your spleen and say what ever you want. The laws that cover slander, deformation of character and libel apply to blogs as much as they do to any other form of publication.

* Perhaps the man did not realise that every computer in the world that is connected to the Internet and every web page ever produced has a unique address which can be used to trace it. Cyber criminals use sophisticated techniques to disguise their web addresses and even they get tracked eventually.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


A warm welcome to those of you who have come to my blog by clicking on this link at the official Bigastro web site.

As Germán says, I live in Bigastro and have done since November 2004. As you might have guessed, I am English.

My wife, Pam and I retired here from teaching. We chose Bigastro because we wanted to live somewhere that was typically Spanish. We chose wisely. Pam and I both love the town, especially the people who have made us feel so welcome.

I hope you enjoyed my photographs.

Un saludo

Keith Williamson

The ugly side of football

A man was stabbed during violent clashes between hundreds of rival football supporters last night as West Ham played Millwall in East London.

Riot police and mounted officers were called in to try to restore order as fans taunted one another and threw bottles and bricks. Fights also broke out within the ground as news of rioting filtered inside.

The Metropolitan Police said that disorder outside the ground, where West Ham beat their rivals 3-1 after extra time, was caused by troublemakers who had turned up despite not having tickets.

Players were forced off the pitch when about 50 fans broke through police cordons around the stands as West Ham took the lead in extra time. Hundreds more ran on to the pitch after the final whistle. Police closed several roads around the ground after the match and 200 officers in riot gear patrolled the route to the Underground station, backed by 20 mounted officers. Officers made two arrests, one for disorder and the second for breach of a banning order.

This is not the first time that there have been serious crowd control problems involving Millwall. I recall they had a reputation for violence some years ago that seemed to have been eradicated by a series of measures taken by the club.

For the sake of British football, let us hope that last night was a one off incident which doesn't provoke a rash of problems at grounds in the future.

I have had this comment which explains the situation  that occurred last night very well.

Hi Keith. I think you are right, this is a very ugly side of football in my opinion too. It's a shame that it happened, but perhaps more importantly, it's a shame that it happened on such a large scale so as to be put into the public eye.
Although you mention Millwall (with their hooligans known as the 'Bushwackers'), the West Ham 'firm' were once the most feared and respected in the country, known as the 'ICF'. West Ham had a serious reputation back in the '80s and I don't think the trouble can be solely blamed on Millwall if these two clubs ever play. Of course, I wasn't there, so can't tell you exactly what happened, but both clubs are historically as bad as each other.
There were two issues that contributed to the disorder last night, in my opinion. Firstly, the game was a night game, which allowed more time in the pubs for the fans. I would guess that some of them would have taken the day off work so would have been in the pub by 11.00am or 12.00pm. Usually, games like this, or other local 'derbies' if played on a weekend, are scheduled for 12.30pm kick offs, or even, in the case of Swansea and Cardiff in recent years 11.30am - yes, a morning game!!
Secondly, the violence was perhaps also due to West Ham and Millwall being in different leagues. The last time they were in the same division was in 2003/04, when West Ham fans caused trouble at Millwall's ground, The New Den. Now that West Ham have gone up a league (into the Premiership) and Millwall down a league (into League 1), the chances that they now meet are few and far between. I'm not sure on my history too well prior to 2003/04, but I would hazard a guess that the 2003/04 season was more of a one-off and that the two teams have not played against each other very much in the last 15 years.
Consequently, the 'old heads' would have been out last night to settle a few scores, I would imagine. Either way, as you so rightly point out, it's a sad sight.
(having said that, this does still go on at games quite regularly nowadays, but not on such a large scale as previous decades due to CCTV and police helicopters deployed now. The 'meets' are now usually organised in advance, off the beaten track and on a much smaller scale, unless it's a big derby!)

Thank you Dave for your well informed comment.

We need your water

A study by the Laboratorio de Climatología de la Universidad Jaume I de Castellón shows that the effect of climatic change in this region will reduce the amount of water in both the Júcar and Segura rivers by between 25 and 40%.

By 2050, the study calculates an average temperature rise of 1 degree Celsius resulting in 5% less rainfall. The Ebro, on the other hand is expected to see increased rainfall. In order to prevent the desertification of this area, the study therefore concludes that it is necessary to create the means to transfer water from the Ebro to the Júcar and Segura rivers.

Transferring water from one region to another is more than an engineering challenge; it is a matter of politics. Although Spain is one country, each region safely guards its resources and is reluctant to share them with others.

Sunset over the Vega Baja

IMG_2610 IMG_2615
IMG_2611 IMG_2620
IMG_2622 IMG_2624

We don’t usually like clouds, especially in August but when they produce dramatic sunsets, that is different. Pam spotted this colourful sky as she brought the washing in – I quickly took my camera to the roof and captured these views for you to enjoy.

When I’d finished, one of our neighbours Mel pointed out the flock of birds crossing the sky. We had no idea what they were but they deserved to have their picture taken.

You can click on the pictures to get a larger view and click on this link to see my earlier pictures of the sunsets over Villas Andrea.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The connecting link

At long last the final stage for the desalinisation plant at Torrevieja is scheduled to begin. On the 15th September, the company Acuamed will begin the difficult process of laying the two metre pipe that will draw water from the sea to the plant.

Controversy has dogged this project which will now be over three years late in completion. At a cost of 300 million euros, the Torevieja desalination plant will be the largest in Europe. It is a flagship project of the socialist government and has seen objections raised by both the local council and the Valencian government. Even now, there is no guarantee of sufficient electricity at an economic price to run it.

Work on this last stage, which was postponed for the holiday period, will take the tube 8 metres below ground level under Vía Parque via the town to the salt quay. Streets will be closed and there will be dust and noise. By way of compensation for all this, Acuamed have agreed to fund 30 million Euros worth of improvements in Torrevieja to benefit the communities affected.

Laying this pipeline is going to be a tricky operation, not least because of the busy roads that the pipe will cross but because the constructors will have to avoid cutting existing services that are already laid underground. Let us hope for everyone’s sake that it goes as smoothly as possible.

Another eBay disaster

Remember my tale of our daughter who was waiting for tickets from and eBay auction? I’m pleased to report that it all worked fine for our Jemma in the end She managed to get tickets for the V Festival at Weston Park just in time to enjoy a weekend of music.

I don’t know what stage she is up to with her claim against the girl who sold her tickets that she didn’t have or the one against the lady who sold her tickets that had already been bought by another eBayer but they are both clear cases and Jemma should get a full refund from PayPal.

However, one of Jemma’s friends may not be so lucky. She bought a trampoline on eBay. Since the item was being sold by someone nearby, the friend went to collect it and paid cash.

The first thing the friend discovered when she returned home, was the lack of instruction but that was nothing compared to what she found when she started to put the thing together. In the description the seller had said, '' The blue ring is a little worn but as far as i am aware there are no rips or tears anywhere on the whole item''. That wasn’t true. In fact 1/3 of the blue safety ring had a giant tear in it, 12 of the base springs were missing and there were several holes in the safety net. The trampoline was unusable.

When the friend of Jemma tried to communicate with the seller, she realised that she wasn’t going to make any progress so she decided to give her negative feedback and try and resolve the issue with eBay. Cleverly though the lady who sold the shoddy goods had cancelled the sale on eBay making it appear that the transaction never happened. As far as I now, Jemma’s friend is going to put it down as a bad experience.

In the defence of eBay, it is fair to say that the majority of auctions complete in a satisfactory manner for both parties. Although I haven’t experienced problems either buying or selling, the sums achieved from sales have varied. For example, I sold a hybrid bicycle before we left England for £35. The bike, which was about ten years old, cost me £350 new. It had a new leather saddle which cost me more than the selling price, the recently replaced tyres had very little wear on them and the condition was as I described it – very good. The buyer, in his feedback said he had just picked up an incredible bargain; I would agree with that.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Is that it?


I bet Spaniards can hardly believe it. All the fuss that England and Australia make about winning this tiny little trophy.

For their benefit this is the Ashes, a minute urn which is fought for every two years.

The game of course is cricket and this is a test match series, generally of five matches of two innings each held alternately in either Australia or England.

This year the series was held in England. In the fifth match, England were ahead by 197 runs with a day to spare so they beat Australia by 2 matches to 1.

The last time England won was four years ago. Before that you have to go back 18 years to find an English victory.

Mind you, it doesn’t matter who wins, the trophy still stays in the Marylebone Cricket Club Museum at Lord's cricket ground in London. So winning is merely symbolic as far as the trophy is concerned.

Can you imagine if the local pigeon club presented such a tiny trophy – everyone would laugh. If you won it and didn't get to keep it - that would create outrage.

NB The Ashes series is named after a satirical obituary published in a British newspaper, The Sporting Times, in 1882 after a match at The Oval in which Australia beat England on an English ground for the first time. The obituary stated that English cricket had died, and the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia. The English media dubbed the next English tour to Australia (1882–83) as the quest to regain The Ashes.

Since the 1998–99 Ashes series, a Waterford Crystal representation of the Ashes urn has been presented to the winners of an Ashes series as the official trophy of that series.

PS For those who, like me, don't understand the game, cricket is just as quirky as that little trophy.

A lot of cloud


The weather this week should please those who have been complaining about all the sunshine we have been enjoying. If you want sunshine in the next few day, you will need to head to the coast where the skies should be clearer. Having said that; as I look out of my window, the sky is blue and the sun is beaming down on Casa El Willo.

Actually, I knew there would be a chance of a drop of rain this week because I washed and cleaned my car yesterday. Although It did need a clean, I should have know better.

Reducing the town’s carbon footprint

Along with Citta Slow, Bigastro has now entered a pact with other European towns to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20% before 2020.

The Council will be setting out its plan of action to achieve this goal by looking at sustainable energy sources – hopefully not wind turbines!

They will also need to involve the local population in this campaign. I mentioned in this blog how last winter the smell of wood smoke permeated the town. Wood fires are a cheap way of heating your house but like coal, they do produce a lot of noxious fumes with a high carbon dioxide content. Wood smoke is also carcinogenic. Just read this article to see how harmful all that smoke is.

I reckon, in winter at least, the town is taking on a huge task to meet their target. I hope for my chest's sake they achieve it!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Our good news

LolnDave Pam and I are officially set to become grandparents (abuelos). Our youngest daughter, Laura is expecting our first grandchild in February. Everyone in the family and our close friends are all absolutely delighted.

We knew weeks before Laura and her partner Dave jetted off for a friend's wedding in Cancun that Laura was probably pregnant – she was displaying all the symptoms. We have waited though for Laura’s first ultrasound scan to confirm her condition before making the news public.

So now Jemma and Pam are making plans for shopping trips for baby things. That will partly make up for the postponement of the planned trip to New York to celebrate Laura's 30th birthday in March. Pam and I may also have to postpone our 40th Wedding Anniversary trip to Rome next year as well. Instead, there are plans afoot for Jemma, Laura, Dave, his parents and of course the first grandchild to come out to Spain so that he/she can see where his/her abuelo and abuelita live.

We hope it will be the first of many trips the child will make to Bigastro. As the Spanish would say, “mi casa es tu casa”. Just so long as he or she doesn’t wee in the pool, the door will be open.

It is a funny thing, when we passed a baby stall at Almoradí market yesterday, we couldn’t help but stop and look. It is a long time since we have taken any real interest in such stuff!

Not entirely wrong

It turns out that the rumour our neighbours had heard about the weather for this week wasn't entirely unfounded. Some parts of Spain have seen temperatures reach 40 degrees this week but not in this area.

The State Agency of Meteorology (AEMET) say that for today, temperatures will continue oscillating between 35 and 40 degrees in many areas in the interior of the peninsular and the island of Mallorca.

The prediction for the Valencian community: cloudy or clear skies, with clouds rolling in to the northern interior during the evening. Temperatures will remain around 36 degrees in parts of the interior. Loose variable winds will predominate in the southern coast areas. For Bigastro AEMET are predicting a high of 34 degrees, a low of 22 and a wind speed of 11km per hour from the north veering to the east by the afternoon. The maximum yesterday was a comfortable 31.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Illegal immigrants arrive at Cabo Roig

image Two small boats,which had been used to carry illegal immigrants, were found at Cabo Roig The boats had bags of clothing and supplies of food including dates on board.

This all started when local police spotted two suspicious people in the Urbanización La Regia at 6:30am and gave chase. One escaped but the police managed to catch the other and found him carrying stolen video cameras, mobile phones and other cameras taken from nearby houses. The police later apprehended his accomplice.

The police patrols then located the two pateras and managed to arrest ten Algerians in wet clothing, heads covered in sun cream and without any documentation. It is thought that the boats were dropped from a sea plane and that there were more passengers that need to be found.

Whilst the boats were being towed to Torreieja one of them started to sink demonstrating their precarious condition.

Green zones around the parks

In 2003, the Valencia regional government had set up 500-metre-wide protection perimeters around the natural parks of Salinas de Santa Pola, La Mata-Torrevieja natural park and El Hondo de Elche y Crevillent , subject to restrictions on use. Now known as ‘impact cushioning' areas, these protection zones  were created to limit any negative effects that activities within them may have on the adjacent wetlands.

Several companies tried to fight the ruling in 2004 but it was upheld by the regional supreme court (TSJCV). The companies appealed the decision and the TS has now ruled that such a periphery protection zone can only be established around parks defined by the state law on the ‘conservation of natural spaces and flora and fauna'. The south Alicante wetlands were defined by a decree of the regional government and so do not qualify, the court stated. The sentence cites the original declaration of La Mata-Torrevieja natural park in December 1996, which did not originally include protected perimeter areas.

The ecological group, Ecologistas en Acción, argues that these areas should remain protected from builders and add that there should be a green corridor set up between the parks to provide fauna with a safe route to reach similar habitats and move to new habitats.

Crack down at last

The Valencia federation of municpalities and provinces (FVMP) is putting together new bylaws to counter the proliferation of street sellers, drinking in public (botellón) and so called gorrillas - men who show you to parking spaces on busy streets.

Apart from the obvious cost to councils of clearing up after a botellón party, the very act of drinking in the street could also provoke fights which cause many problems for local police forces. Alicante security councillor Juan Seva, said that during August the number of officers employed in controlling illegal drinking parties had been increased and the result is that more fines are being issued.

In the case of the gorrillas, only three judges at the provincial court are prepared to send them to jail for non payment of fines while in Sevilla this practice has worked so well that they have been almost completely eliminated. Police in Alicante arrested a man on Tuesday for causing 5,000 euros-worth of damage to a car after the owner refused to give him money for being shown a parking place.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Whilst we were in the pool yesterday cooling down Pam and I were discussing family trees.

I know a few people who have traced their lineage back; in some cases by quite a few generations. It helps of course if the family have kept records and passed them on.

Where families have broken up and moved on it must be a whole lot more difficult. Although some of the work could probably be done using the Internet, I imagine you still need to visit various records which are not available online.

Pam can trace her ancestors back to her great great grandparents on her mother’s side of the family; I can only go back as far as my grandparents on my mother’s side and no further than my father on the other side.

To make matters worse for the genealogist, the quality of parish records vary a lot. It all depends how well they have been kept. 

Luckily for anyone in Bigastro, the parish records are in very good condition. So the job of tracing your family history in Bigastro would be relatively easy. Amazingly, the records go back to almost when the town was first established in 1701.

In total there are:-

  • 22 Books of Baptisms:  covering the years from 1725 to  today.
  • 10 Books of Marriages: covering the years from 1715 to  today.
  • 10 Books of Deaths:  covering the years from 1737 to  today. 
  • 7 Books of Infant Deaths covering the years from 1821 - 1958

The changing face of Spain

In a fascinating article about beaches today and yesteryear in the newspaper El Mundo, I found these photographs of Santa Pola.   


This is Santa Pola in the sixties when the town had 8,000 in habitants


and now.

It is just as fascinating to look at pictures of Bigastro. The photograph in the Ayuntamiento taken in the sixties shows that the town finished just past the church. Beyond that was the kitchen garden. There are no high rise flats to be seen; the highest building is just two storeys.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Beating the budget airlines at their own game

Anyone who has booked a flight with the so called budget airlines will have suffered the frustration of finding out that the so called “bargain price” turns out to be a lot more expensive when you get to the final total  and your credit card is charged.

No-frills rule-busting

The methods that airlines use to bump up the costs range from just sly to those where it's hard to see how they're legally justifiable. The EU law governing this says, "the final price paid shall at all times be indicated… including the applicable air fare, taxes, charges, surcharges and fees which are unavoidable." Crafty airlines though have a way of getting round this. 

First off: you pay more just to pay

When you buy your flight, there's no cash option, yet all budget airlines charge extra to pay by credit or debit card. They get away with this policy by making it free to pay via Visa Electron debit cards.

It isn’t any cheaper to process Electrons than any other debit cards but airlines know that there are far fewer of these cards than the other types that banks issue. Saying that it is free to use an Electron card is just a way of getting round the legal loophole.

To make matters worse, while some industries do charge extra for credit card payments, it's usually done as 1pc or 2pc of the total cost, reflecting what they themselves are charged. But for credit and debit cards, BMI Baby, Aer Lingus, Ryanair, Flybe and SkyEurope charge a fixed sum per person, each way.

So with Ryanair your flight may be just £2 return but you then pay a disproportionate £5 each way to use your credit card.

Automatic 'opt-in' insurance

EU rules clearly state passengers must now actively select travel insurance as an option, yet some airlines constantly thumb their nose at this by having their insurance boxes auto‑ticked. It is easy to forget to un-tick the box and find you have been charged for insurance you don’t want. You can buy annual travel insurance policies for as little as  £15. From Spain it is more difficult to get these policies but it is possible.

Check-ins unavoidable but optional

Some budget carriers charge big fees for checking in at the airport rather than online. Yet as most can only be booked on the web anyway, this isn't too arduous. Do ensure you print the boarding cards for both legs before you go though. We didn’t on Pam’s last trip to the UK and had to pay 8€ at the airport.

Ryanair charges a staggering £80 return fee for airport check-in, and £10 return for online. Yet there's generally no other option, so how is this an add-on? Admittedly, on its promotion £1-type fares, online check-in is included; can its argument really be that the ''option'' is to always go for a promo fare even if it is at a different time and place from that required?

While it is listed on the page, surely the £10 should be incorporated into the ticket price and then airport check-in listed as £70 extra?

Sky Europe 'pay, pay, pay' rule

This low-budget central European carrier will take you to Bratislava and Prague but charges €5 when you pay by  credit, debit and Visa Electron payments. There is no other way to pay so how can this be called ''unavoidable''?

It's time for legislative change. Online check in and debit card payment charges should always be included in the price shown. All other main charges including baggage, credit card payments and more, should – as with mortgage annual percentage rates (APRs) – be forced to be listed in the same font size.

Find all the £1 flights

Super-cheap budget airline sales tend to only last a couple of days, so monitor and be quick. Then check the details and focus your search; sales are always for fixed times and specific destinations.

Then, while a million seats may be on sale, try to find them and often full-price deals appeal.

You can use the free to find the cheapest seats.

On the site you simply opt to ''find any £10-and-under inc. taxes & charges (but not added extras) Barcelona flights in August'', or set a price and pick "I'll go anywhere".

However, for specific dates, use comparison websites like , and

Get a prepaid Electron card

To beat the up-to-£10 return per-person charges for paying by debit or credit card, you need to pay on a Visa Electron debit card. In the old days, this was tough as few bank accounts issued them. La Caixa here in Spain offer them so this is what we use to avoid charges.

If you haven’t got an Electron card, get the prepaid Travelex Cash Passport, which is a bit like plastic cash, just load it up and use to spend. It's available online or from Thomas Cook or Co-Ops. You pay 2pc to put the cash onto the card, but that's still a fraction of airlines' charges. See for full info.

Beat baggage fees

The best option is only take hand luggage; special cases have been designed to fit in the space, and most airlines give you 10kg allowance.

If not, you'll pay between £10  and £40 for each case in the hold providing you book it in advance, if not, the cost jumps.

The most important thing to remember, though, is that more bags don't usually mean more weight. You're still restricted to the allowance, you can just spread it over more cases. Go above the weight limit and you'll pay between £10 and £15 per extra kilo.

The advice is to  pack carefully and adopt some cunning. Wear your heaviest shoes, coat, a couple of jumpers as you get on the plane, then dump them under your seat for the journey.

Avoid paying excess on your hold luggage by making sure you use your full 10kg cabin allowance. In the past most people only took a few kilos onto the plane. Now it makes sense to go up to the limit but make sure that it fits into the right size bag.

If you're over on the return, be prepared to throw anything that costs less than £10 per kilo to rebuy.

Do your own 'no frills'

Since ''no-frills'' means exactly that in the air, avoid the ridiculous prices that airlines charge for a sandwich and a drink by taking your own (Pam always buys a Boot’s meal deal at Manchester. Not only are they cheaper but they taste a lot better). Really canny people make up their own and wrap them in foil to keep the sandwiches fresh.

It is  also wise to stock up on plastic bags if you're carrying make-up or liquids because if you don't have one, you may be charged an unbelievable £1 for getting one of those, too.

For a full airline-by-airline fee-beating guide, see

Well well

I have said it before and will repeat it again, “I AM NOT A FAN OF FOOTBALL!”

The reason I am telling you this is because whenever people ask us where we came from in England, we say the Wirral. The next question is always, “where is that”. We usually answer, “near Chester”. We are not being snobbish by citing Chester as the nearest city to us. Where we lived was 20 minutes away from the city centre. However many Spaniards don’t know of Chester so we have to tell them we were just ‘over the water’ (the river Mersey) from Liverpool.

Unfortunately, telling people we lived near to Liverpool always provokes the question, “so what team do you support?” It seems that everyone who lives within 20 miles of Liverpool is assumed to be either a “red” or “blue”, they either support Liverpool or Everton. People look dumbfounded when we tell them that we don’t support any team. How on earth could we live near Liverpool and not be a fan of football!

Our youngest daughter’s partner supports Manchester United. Actually supports is an understatement, he lives and breathes for Manchester United. Dave is more obsessive about his team than I am about my computer and that is saying a lot.

Dave has followed his team for years, travelling to away matches in the dead of winter and to far off places during their European forays. He was in Moscow to see them win the Champion’s League and in Rome to see them lose to Barcelona. I reckon Dave would rather go barefoot than forgo his season ticket.

Since the news broke, Dave has spoken very little about the impact that the loss of Ronaldo and Tévez will make to his team this year. He, like a lot of United fans, are hoping that other players will fill the gap and keep the momentum going. His hopes are pinned on the younger players who were perhaps overshadowed when Ronaldo was at Old Trafford.

Dave always argues that the League Championship is the most important competition to be in and adds that a loss or two on the way in that competition is not important. As Dave says, “the league is a marathon not a sprint” and adds, “It doesn’t matter who starts well, it is the is the team that finishes top that counts”. He is right – in football being a good second doesn’t count.

Nether the less, I would argue that it is good to set a marker at the start of the season and I don’t think Dave would argue against that. I imagine therefore that even he must be a little disappointed with his team’s performance at the start of this year’s campaign. After a mundane 1-0 victory over Birmingham on Sunday, they have been beaten by newly promoted Burnley 1-0. This must have come as a shock to even the most stoic United fan. To loose to Burnley must have been unthinkable. I feel for Dave because he must be beside himself with disbelief.

Always the master of understatement in these circumstances, Sir Alec Ferguson says, “We usually take our time to get going. Sometimes it’s October before we get into our best form. But we shouldn’t be losing these games. It was a bad performance and we should have done more with the chances and the possession we had.

“You have to give credit to Burnley. It’s a great night for them. You can’t deny them their victory. They worked their socks off and the fans were fantastic.”

All I can say is, the Manchester United mug that Dave left here may have to be confined to the back of the cupboard if things don’t improve. I don’t want people who visit our house to laugh at me thinking I am an ardent fan of a team who are falling so rapidly from grace.

PS I was only joking about hiding the mug. I'm not the sort of guy who ditches a team just because they have a couple of bad games!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Now I know

It pays to know what you are drinking here in Spain. We’d seen people with a delicious looking concoction which was black liquid topped with white ice cream – blanco y negro.

It seems that in some bars the black part will be cold coffee but in others, agua de cebada. Agua de cebada turns out to be water of barley – rather sweet but with an interesting flavour. Try one when you are next out!

PS If you don’t want the ice cream part, you can also order a granizado de cebada; like a lemon granizada but made with agua de cebada instead.

I don’t know; milk with cinnamon, horchata and now agua de cebada – we are been exposed to a whole new world of non-alcoholic drinks here in Spain. Forget the Coca Cola, these drinks are far more refreshing on a hot day.

It pays to check part 2

My eldest daughter bought camping tickets for the V Festival which is scheduled for this weekend; hers was the winning bid in an eBay auction. Having paid by Paypal, Jemma waited for the tickets to arrive.

Concerned that she hadn’t received them, Jemma phoned the lady who was selling the tickets only to find that she hadn’t actually got the tickets at he time she sold them. The lady Jemma was buying from had bought them herself on eBay from a third party and not received them before putting them up for auction.

The story goes that the first person in the chain had put the tickets up for auction only to find the winning bidder refusing to pay up. She then put them back on eBay where they were bought by the lady Jemma was dealing with. Unfortunately, it seems the first lady had sent the tickets to the wrong person; she’d sent them to the one who had refused to pay in her first auction by mistake.

As it happens, the lady had posted them with a certificate of posting and so was able to track their whereabouts. Upon investigation she found that the tickets were sitting in the Post Office sorting office in Leeds because they were undeliverable. In time they would have been returned to sender – too late for the concert!

The upshot is that the tickets are now apparently on their way to the lady who Jemma was dealing with who has promised to bring them direct to Jemma as soon as she receives them – the two only live twenty miles apart.

Clearly the lady who sold them to Jemma was in the wrong. She was selling something that she physically didn’t have - Jemma was not to know that. The lady who failed to pay was in the wrong because the deal is if you win – you pay. Bidding and buying on eBay is not a game even though some do treat it as such.

I sincerely hope that everyone now lives up to their promises and that Jemma gets to enjoy her concert. I don’t know what the weather forecast is – I hope it doesn’t rain.

The whole experience has put Jemma off buying on eBay and the lady who was selling from dealing with concert tickets again.

Partied out

When we called down into Bigastro yesterday morning, most of the shops were shut as were the bars. There was nobody in the bank and very few people on the streets. Following the Fiesta a lot of people from the town take their holiday and who can blame them.

What was noticeable was that the debris left behind from the Fiesta had all been cleaned up. Spaniards may not be litter conscious but they are good at clearing up after themselves.

Although the Fiesta was great and we thoroughly enjoyed every moment. it is kind of nice ot have the town back to its Citta Slow self again.

Check and double check

I had a phone call a few weeks back giving me an appointment for an electrocardiogram. On the due date, at the due time we went to Vega Baja hospital only to find that the department was closed. So we went back yesterday to enquire and discovered that my appointment was actually at Torrevieja doh!.

I kind of expected the appointment to be at Vega Baja because that is what the consultant in Orihuela had said. My own doctor had also presumed it would be there.

If only I had double checked the details on the phone and not presumed, I would have got it right. So I will have to go and eat humble pie and hope to get another appointment bearing in mind it took three months to get this one.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Does it work for you?

In the sidebar of this blog there is the facility to translate my English into one of several languages.

I know from my own experience that language translators are not always 100 accurate and that the translation they produce can be at best grammatically incorrect. It doesn’t help when certain words in the language have different meanings according to the context.

The question is, “how well does the Google translator work?” Only my Spanish readers can answer this.

For example, does this translation of my post about the models made from salt make sense? (translation into Spanish is in italics).

In the salt museum you find all manner of things made from salt. En el museo de la sal a encontrar todo tipo de cosas hechas de sal.

However the most popular subjects for this model making craft are sailing boats. Sin embargo los temas más populares para este modelo son las embarcaciones que navegan los barcos.

The ones in this picture from Informacion are entrants in the 39th Annual Competition held in Torrevieja. Los que en esta foto de Informacion son participantes en la 39 ª Competencia anual celebrado en Torrevieja.

In all 180 people of different ages and nationalities entered their precious and very delicate models this year. En todas las 180 personas de diferentes edades y nacionalidades han entrado en sus preciosos y muy delicados modelos de este año.

Although many are from Torrevieja, entries come from all over Spain. Aunque muchas son de Torrevieja, las entradas proceden de toda España.

How are they made? ¿Cómo se hace?

Apparently you create a skeleton out of wood and string and then leave in it a salt lake to become encrusted. Al parecer, se crea un esqueleto de madera y cuerda y, a continuación, dejar en un lago de sal para ser incrustadas.

It sounds simple enough but I bet there are a lot of failures along the way. Suena bastante simple pero apuesto que hay muchos de los fracasos en el camino.

Perhaps one of my Spanish readers will kindly let me know by email at

Salt boats


In the salt museum you find all manner of things made from salt. However the most popular subjects for this model making craft are sailing boats.

The ones in this picture from Informacion are entrants in the 39th Annual Competition held in Torrevieja. In all 180 people of different ages and nationalities entered their precious and very delicate models this year. Although many are from Torrevieja, entries come from all over Spain.

How are they made? Apparently you create a skeleton out of wood and string and then leave in it a salt lake to become encrusted. It sounds simple enough but I bet there are a lot of failures along the way.

Keeping a closer watch

New measures introduced by the Spanish tax office on August 1 will mean all taxpayers, including foreign property owners, will fall under increased scrutiny. The loss of tax revenue caused by the economic crisis and reduction in consumer spending has resulted in a gaping hole in the government's budget. Incoming taxes have plunged by 25% and government spending has increased by 13%.

In order to get the finances back on track the tax office has brought in a number of measures.

As from August 1, they have the power to embargo or seize assets up to the value of 20,000 Euros as security against unpaid taxes. Not only has the limit more than tripled, being previously a maximum of 6,000 Euros, the former complicated legal process has been eliminated. In little more than 10 days the tax office will be able to secure personal equity by embargoing bank accounts and property to cover debts owed by individual taxpayers.

The government has also given the green light to measures introduced by the tax office to combat fraud. All banks will be obliged to present annual reports for every account holder detailing the movement of funds from personal loans exceeding 6,000 euros and cash deposits and withdrawals exceeding 3,000 euros per transaction.

As a result foreign owners of Spanish properties - known to the tax office through their tax identity NIE numbers - will face more in-depth scrutiny. Information about the property they own, their bank account movements and their water and electric consumption has to be made readily available by law to the taxman by the different property registries, financial entities and utility companies in Spain.

By these means the tax office will be able to determine an appropriate tax category for owners because they will know when the property is in use by focusing on the frequency of cash deposits and withdrawals from bank accounts.

When we got our first bill from SUMA for our local taxes we realised that there was a mistake somewhere because it was considerably higher than the bills of our neighbours. The advice we received from our fiscal advisers was not to pay it because it could take SUMA a long time to correct the mistake.

Eventually we received notice from SUMA that there was an embargo placed on our car. Because we had failed to pay the tax bill they wanted me to hand over the car and its documents in lieu of the unpaid debts. A hasty trip to Cadastra in Alicante was required to get a proper evaluation of our house for tax purposes and the embargo lifted.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Don’t listen to gossip


Someone told us weeks ago that it was going to get hotter at the end of August. They even suggested that temperatures could reach the low 50s.

The rumour has obviously got round because our English neighbours, who really don’t like summer weather at all, have got shopping in for the next couple of weeks so they don’t have to go outside whilst it is so hot.

Anyone who has lived here for awhile will tell you that the hottest month is usually July and that, by the middle of August, it is starting to cool down. Looking at the prediction for this week, that is clearly the case this year.

PS Summer temperatures must be miserable for anyone who can’t stand the heat. This kind of silly gossip is going to make them feel even worse.

Finished but not forgotten

After 8 long days and nights, the Fiestas Patronales en Honor a San Joaquín 2009 are now over.

There have been some fantastic moments – too many to list here.

The Fiesta wasn’t just about partying; there were sporting events, music and of course devotion because the fiesta is really about giving thanks to the patron saint of the town, San Joaquín  who is immortalized by the statue of him with the infant Jesus by Francisco Salzillo.

It seems each year that I get to take more and more photographs -most of which have been posted in albums on this blog. I have also sent copies to Germán Martín at the Ayuntamiento who I dare say will be using some of them in next year’s programme.

From the comments I have received, both verbally and in writing, it seems that many bigastrenses appreciate the photographs I produce. For my part, I thoroughly enjoy taking and sharing them with you.

There are a lot of people we need to thank for this year’s Fiesta. Principally it is the work of the Comisión de Fiestas led by the President Manuel Sanchez Robles but of course the Ayuntamiento played a big part and what would fiesta be without the contribution of the Sociedad Unión Musical de Bigastro.

To all the people who contributed in any way a big thank you – your efforts are much appreciated by all.

A tear in the eye

The previous night had mainly been about fun, last night was clearly about religious devotion. The very moving procession of San Joaquín accompanied by thousands of locals and visitors carrying lighted candles can bring a lump to the throat of even strong men.


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On his return to the church, there was the most spectacular firework display guaranteed to raise an applause from the appreciative audience in the town square.

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For all of my pictures from this very special night click here.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

You made me blush

I received this email today.





Many thanks for you very kind words. I didn’t recognise the person you were writing about but I assume it was me!

PS In the sidebar there is a feature that allows you to translate my English into Spanish. I hope it produces language that you can understand.

Un error

On the photograph of Ángel the son of Ana who taught us Spanish for the first four years, I gave his name as Ángel Moya Gomez. He is in fact Ángel Aragón Moya.

My excuse if that I am still confused by the system of adopting apellidos in Spanish!

Thank you Ana for your kind comment about my blog and thank you again for sending me the photograph. The people from your class who read my blog were delighted to see what a handsome little chap he is.


What a fantastic night that was. The parade of comparsas in fancy dress was just as colourful as ever.

How these people come up with such imaginative themes and choreograph their routines I will never know. They certainly know how to dazzle the crowds.

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For my full set of photographs of this fantastic display click here.

Once the parade was finished there was time to have a refreshing drink before the Alborada. This is when the people off Bigastro paraded along the streets to welcome in the dawn of the day of San Joaquín. My photographs for this are at the end of the set.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Last night in Bigastro

First off, the children made floral offerings to San Joaquín followed by mass outside the church.

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You can more of my pictures from the parade by clicking on this link

Then we had the concert for San Joaquín by the Sociedad Unión Musical de Bigastro under the direction of Thomás Rodríguez Gómez. along with the choir “Manuel Moya” and the class of singers from the Bigastro School of Music.


As you can see, we enjoyed a varied and interesting programme of music performed to perfection by the talented musicians in the band.

Although it would be wrong to pick out any individual performances, I have to mention the soloist Susi Gálvez Mespies because she has such an incredible voice. When she sings you can feel the hairs on the back of your neck rise.

I only have a few pictures for you here.

To round off the very popular Jubars from Bigastro treated us to a concert in the park.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A word of warning to Facebook users

All Facebook users are familiar by now with the applications that encourage them to take part in games or quizzes. However, these applications can harm users, according to security specialists from Avira.

The harmful applications are cleverly disguised advertising banners that perfectly mimic the appearance and function of the familiar and ever-changing Facebook applications (widgets). If a web surfer clicks one of these, rather than being taken to a trustworthy Facebook application, he will find himself diverted to another server on the Internet without even noticing. The fake widgets are so cleverly programmed and designed that the user’s suspicions are not aroused as he uses them. At the end of the activity, the fraudulent web application will ask for additional information, such as a mobile phone number, to deliver the result of the game. However, the text message sent will prove expensive, because it is the confirmation that the user has agreed to a subscription with the fraudsters. The details are usually only found in the small print, which is easy to overlook: the damage can reach considerable amounts of money, which are debited with the next phone bill.

The risk of giving away too much personal information exists with every application on offer within the social web. Anyone using Facebook applications should only install those from a trusted source and should think carefully about the data they reveal on the platform. It takes just a few easy setting changes to secure your privacy. The right checkmarks can be set in Facebook under Settings/ Privacy Settings. The safest approach is to set all the fields in your Profile to “Only Friends”. Remember that here too, not every person behind a friendship invitation is a real friend.

It is also possible to change the settings for advertisements. The Facebook Ads tab can be found under Settings/ Privacy Settings/ News Feed and Wall. Here, you should select “No One” in the box. It is also possible to set the access rights for the applications: Individual rights can be assigned for all applications under Settings/ Application Settings / Edit Settings. Here it is also advisable to at least set the settings for your private domain to “Only Friends” and to take a close look at the settings for additional approvals.

My excuse

One or two people have commented that there are quite a few pictures of young ladies included in my sets.

Maybe it is because I was an art teacher at the start of my career and so have an eye for beauty and form. Or possibly, living in a country where the men have hot passionate blood, is starting to rub off.

I think I will settle for the former it is probably safer!


PS by way of balance, I have to point out that there are a number of pictures of young men included in my photos. For example, I know that a number of my British readers regard Valerio, our youthful Mayor, as very handsome.Quickly donning my metrosexual hat, I would have to say I agree with them.

On the agenda for the rest of the week

As the fiesta draws into the last few days things start to hot up. That is where “Tío del Tractor” comes in because if you are in the right place at the right time you can enjoy a cold beer free of charge.

It won’t really matter though if you miss him because stroll along Calle Antonio Pérez Gálvez at about half past twelve and you can enjoy a cold beer and a tapa for 1.50€. Our favourites yesterday were the bacon and eggs on half a small baguette. It was like having a mini English breakfast at noon. Today we will go for something different.

At 7:30pm one of the most beautiful parades of the Fiesta will take place. At that time, children and adults, many in traditional costume will parade along Calle Purisima to the outside of the church and offer flowers to San Joaquín .

Then at 11pm, the Town Band will present their concert to honour San Joaquín in the Plaza de la Constitución. You need to be in good time to get a decent seat and prepared to be amazed by their special programme of music.

image Having thoroughly enjoyed the concert by the band, you can then move on to the Parque Huerto del Cura to watch the JUBARS DE BIGASTRO who will be performing at 1am.

Saturday promises to be another great day.

At 11am the finals of the Caliche competition will take place at the Plaza de la Concordia. Saturday will also be the last day to catch a free beer from the tractor or enjoy a tapa or two on Calle Antonio Pérez Gálvez.

You must be in place for about 9pm on Calle Purisima to see the comparsas parade in fancy dress and watch out especially for chief scout John who will dressed as an Egyptian in the pensioners group.

image What ever you do though, don’t go home when the parade is finished because at 1am you can either take part in or watch the traditional Alborada when the people of Bigastro will parade from the Plaza Ramón y Cajal to welcome in the day of San Joaquín. Almost exhausted by all this you should then saunter across to the Parque Huerto del Cura to see the Grupo Bolero 7.

On Sunday, if you are not going to church for Mass, be prepared for the Mascletá at 1pm. You will see it being set up in the Plaza de la Constitución and if not, you should certainly hear it. These are not pretty fireworks, they are loud fireworks set off in a particular rhythm.

Later on, at about 8:30pm, go down to the Plaza de la Constitución to see the brotherhood of San Joaquín carry the statue of the patron saint around the streets accompanied by thousands of people carrying candles. For those who have witnessed the Easter parades where the pasos are carried on the shoulders, this will be a familiar sight. If your Spanish is up to it, you can then watch the comedian Paco Calonge, perform in the Parque Huerto del Cura.

The party won't finish then though because the disco in the park will continue until dawn and on Calle Mayor, that cage will be the scene of mayhem as the young people set off their fireworks in a supermarket trolley.

You can expect the streets of Bigastro to be very quiet on Monday morning as people sleep off this year’s fiesta. San Joaquín will be safe and sound in his place in the church until next year.

For those of you who sadly cannot be here, I will post as many pictures as I can on this blog. You will need to be patient though because it does take time to process all those images.

PS I hope Germán is having a restful holiday because I will have plenty of photos for him to sift through on his return!

Note the colour of the flag

The beaches at Guardamar del Segura are our favourites in this area. However, they can also be the most treacherous when the Levante wind blows creating undertows and strong sea currents that can catch you out. That is why, on the 11 kilometres of beach, there are 54 Red Cross stations equipped with a pair of quad bikes, three jet skis and an ambulance.

Yesterday, the Red Cross were too late to save a pair of men who were caught out before they arrived for the morning patrol. Both had ignored the red flag signalling that bathing was prohibited. Neither could be saved.

Each year a number of people die on the beaches in this area. More often than not it is because they have ignored the warning flags thinking that the water is safe when it isn't. The only time it is safe to bathe is when the green flag is flying. Ignoring the warnings could put not only your own life at risk but that of others as well.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Gastronomy day

My tummy feels nicely full! That is a measure of the success of this year’s Gastronomy Day at the Fiesta for San Joaquín.

First off we sampled the excellent tapas and beer at la “Tapeo en la calle”. We thought we were spoilt for choice there and then we moved onto the "Jornada Gastronómica".

The British contingent did us proud with some excellent examples of typical cuisine from the old country. As we turned the corner there was an array of different stews, arroces and pastas to tempt our palates. Round the next corner was the delicious suckling pig followed by traditional desserts of the region.

The best part of the day though was chatting to so many of our Spanish and British neighbours, sharing our thoughts about the food and generally putting the world to rights. They say that living in the sun makes you happy people. I would have to agree because we returned home muy contento. For more photos click here

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A new toy


Those of you who wander over to my Project 365 hosted by Flickr will have seen my picture for today was taken using a fish eye lens converter I bought recently.

Just to give you another taste of the crazy pictures this lens produces here is one of our pool which makes it look much larger than it actually is. If we ever come to sell the house I’ll use a picture like that just as the estate agents would!

Impossible economics

The biggest problem for agriculturalists in this region is normally the quantity and the quality of the water they get to irrigate their crops. This year however, the main problem facing them is the price that they are getting at market for their produce.

Yellow melons, for example, which cost 12 to 15c per kilo to grow are fetching 8c per kilo at market. Tomatoes cost 20c per kilo to raise which is the same price they are sold for. It is just as bad for the growers who produce green melons because they cost 5c per kilo more than they sell for.

To make matters worse for the tomato growers. they are suffering a plague of "Tutta Absoluta" which hatches its larvae in the plants causing a loss of between 30 and 40 percent of the crop.

To solve this dilemna, the growers are demanding a minimum price for each crop that will at least allow them to make a living.

PS Whilst we were at Orihuela market, I noticed a lady selling melons at 3 for 1€ who was still struggling to find customers. I suspect that they were too cheap making people suspicious of their quality.

A well deserved rest

The Department of Technology and Communication area of the City council of Bigastro have announced that they will be on holiday until September.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish Germán and the rest of the team a very enjoyable vacation.

Much of the information for my blog comes from the excellent Bigastro web site which Germán maintains. He kindly posts my photographs so that others in the town can enjoy them and provides me with web space to host the albums of photographs that I include in my blog. Without his assistance this blog would have little to offer.

I am very grateful to him for all his help and again hope that he and the team have a good rest and look forward to seeing him back in September.

A bit of common sense

Apparently Diane Clarke attended a meeting about the Gastronomic Day where she was told that things will be different for this year.

The first year that we went down to the Plaza Concordia for this event, there was plenty of food for all. The British contingent was small occupying just one corner. The following year there was more food and a larger British contingent but also there were a lot more people in attendance. Consequently, when we joined the queue, there was very little food left. It was the same the year after.

Last year the British contribution was out of proportion with the percentage of Brits living in Bigastro. The tables we were allocated groaned with the amount of food on them. We had every right to feel proud of our achievement. However people had got greedy; you could not help but notice that many of the people who were served first came away with two or three plates piled high with food - much of which they left on the tables to be thrown away.

The concept of the day, as far as I can gather, is that people get to sample a range of different dishes that they are maybe not familiar with. Spanish people get to try traditional British dishes and Brits get to try the flavours of Spanish food. Other nationalities get a free lunch! I don’t think it is the intention to provide people with a three course meal which would save them cooking that day!

So for this year things will be different. We are told that people will be strictly rationed to ONE plate each and will be SERVED the food rather than pick up as much as they can get on their plates. Hopefully that will mean that everyone will get to sample the food on offer and enjoy the afternoon.

PS Our contribution is a plateful of pork sausages and a plateful of sausage rolls. We hope you like them.